Thursday, June 25, 2009

Jon and Kate Part II

Wow! Lots of conversation about Jon and Kate.

There is no question there are a number of different aspects to this situation from unhappiness and infidelity to what is best for the children.

While I am not privy to all of the details of Jon and Kate's situation, having worked in the field of strengthening marriages and families for more than a decade, there isn't much I haven't heard.

So, here are some additional thoughts.

When a spouse is unhappy he/she often blames the marriage or the other person for causing their unhappiness, when in reality there are other things going on. For example, a national study of 10,000 couples asked them to rate their marriage from life in hell (1) to heaven on earth (7). The couples were interviewed twice, five years apart. The study found that most people rated their marriage as happy. Eighty-one percent of the couples who rated their marriage as life in hell were still together five years later. Out of that group, the majority said they were very happy after five years. During the tough times these couples said they were dealing with children, illness, bad things happening to good spouses, job loss, etc. (The Case for Waiting)

Based on my experience, I see many couples willing to throw in the towel on a perfectly good marriage that has just been derailed and needs help getting back on track.

Second, when infidelity is a factor in a marriage, most couples see that as the marriage is over, no questions asked.

According to research, 25 percent of women and 40 percent of men will have an extra-marital affair at some point in their marriage. (Affair-proofing Your Marriage) The good news is there are huge numbers of marriages that don't just survive affairs, they are significantly better than they were before the affair. The key to a marriage surviving an affair lies in its good marital history. If 20 percent of a couple's history is simultaneously viewed as positive by both spouses, they have a better than 90 percent chance of making it. (Can A Marriage Survive an Affair)

Third, there is no debate that divorce impacts children. Even in situations where divorce seems to be the lesser of two evils, children and adults pay a price.

According to Dr. Judith Wallerstein, author of The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce, "Divorce is a life-transforming experience. After divorce, childhood is different, adolescence is different, adulthood - with the decision to marry or not and have children or not - is different. (The Legacy of Divorce)

Granted, there are some instances, ie. abuse, where divorce seems to be the best answer. But, the reality is only 30 percent of divorces are due to high conflict, abusive situations. Seventy percent of divorces are low-conflict marriages where people become disconnected and fall out of love.

We cannot turn a blind eye to the fact that all involved - dad, mom, children, friends, neighbors, grandparents, co-workers, etc. will be impacted for a life time when a divorce occurs. Therefore, I do not believe that this is a decision that should be made lightly or quickly.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Is Divorce Really Better for the Kids?

I know people are probably SICK of hearing about Jon and Kate, but I have to put in my two-cents worth. On the last episode they were saying that getting divorced would be better for the kids, that it isn't good for them to see their parents fighting and that everything will be just fine.

Please! This kind of thinking is flat out erroneous and there is TONS of research to back it up. Everything will not be just fine.

While high conflict marriages DO impact children, the reality is these children WILL NOT be better off if their parents divorce.

The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce by Judith Wallerstein has 25 years worth of research showing the impact of divorce on children all the way through adulthood. Children are not resilient. They may act tough, but in reality they are very tender.

I will never forget listening to a 10-year-old child ask, "Why did my dad have to quit right in the middle?"

The reality is this marriage can be saved and is worth saving not just for the sake of the children, but for the sake of Jon and Kate.

I wish they had people in their lives that would come along side them and strongly encourage them to seek out additional resources to help get their marriage back on track.

If you know someone whose marriage is derailed encourage them to seek out help from marriage friendly organizations. If you are looking for resources visit

Monday, June 22, 2009

Adventures in Motherhood

A couple of weeks ago I was taking our daughter to get her wisdom teeth out. As I got into her car I smelled cigarette smoke. I think it would be fair to say that I started questioning her fairly intensely about why her car smelled like smoke. She assured me she had no idea. To which I responded, "Well I can just tell you that a car doesn't smell this intensely of smoke unless someone has been smoking in it. I believe that you haven't been smoking. Have you had someone on your car with you?????"

I should back up and tell you that our daughter has had her license for about 3 months and before we allowed her to drive her car she had to sign a contract. The contract included things like no one would be allowed to ride with her at this point without permission and there would be no alcohol or cigarettes allowed in her car.

To make a long story shorter.....

She told her Dad that her car smelled like smoke and that I was upset. He mentioned that it might be the air conditioning filter. In spite of the fact that he used to detail cars and might have some knowledge about this area, I jumped in there saying there is no way that all of the sudden the car is going to start reeking of cigarette smoke.

Yesterday Dad and daughter went to the car parts store and the guys said it was probably her cabin air filter (aka the air conditioning filter) Hummmmm. When they changed it out, the old one REEEEEKED of cigarette smoke. The guy said the previous owner of the car was clearly a smoker and this was one of the worst air filters he had seen.

When they returned home my daughter was very quick to point out that I was WRONG and needed to apologize for not believing her in the first place.

She's right and I did.

While I felt bad about the situation, I don't think it was totally a bad scene. I want her to know that we are paying attention. There are too many times teens get in tough situations with their friends and get coerced into doing something they don't really want to do. I thought this may have been one of times.

I did ask her why she didn't tell us when her car started smelling like smoke. To which she replied, "I didn't want to get in trouble." I explained that letting me just find it on my own made the situation a whole lot more suspicious than if she had come to us and told us her car was smelling funny.

Lesson learned for all involved!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

What Makes You Happy?

Are you happy?

As I was walking this morning, I was thinking about how fortunate I am to be able to get up and walk each morning. The sunrises are magnificent and on any given day I might see deer, rabbit, a coyote or a beautiful flower that has just popped open. I love the peace and quiet and the opportunity to start the new day appreciative of what I have - my health, my family, great friends, a job I am passionate about and so much more.

My walk is more than exercise, it gives me the chance to frame my day and consider all that I have versus what I don't have.

I recently read a book called Gross National Happiness by Dr. Arthur Brooks. After reviewing a great deal of data on the topic of happiness he found something that really surprised him. The things that actually lead to living a happy life are not the things people typically think of like money, having the perfect body or making great grades in school.

The key to happiness is a life that reflects traditional values and practices like faith, hard work, marriage, charitable giving and freedom.

While Americans have become a lot richer in the past several decades there has not been a meaningful rise in the average level of happiness. In 1972, 30 percent of Americans said they were very happy. By 2004, the percent of Americans who said they were happy remained virtually unchanged even though there had been a 50 percent real increase in average income.

People who give money to charitable organizations are 43 percent more likely than non-givers to be happy.

Brooks bottom line is that without proper values, our jobs and our economy will bring us soulless toil and joyless money. Our education will have little meaning and there will be no reason to fight or make peace to protect our way of life.

"The pursuit of happiness is central to everything we do and our values are what make this pursuit possible," said Dr. Brooks.

Now there's something worth thinking about. What brings you happiness?